Seven wild horses have died and 852 have been captured during the first eight days of a helicopter roundup on the Shawave Mountains Herd Management Area, 20 miles southeast of Lovelock, Nev.
— On Aug. 3, a bay stud colt was euthanized after suffering a broken shoulder after being kicked by another horse in temporary holding.
— On Aug. 4, a bay yearling stud suffered a broken neck in the holding facility and a 5-year-old bay mare “died during transport.”
— Also on Aug. 4, three other wild horses assigned body condition scores of two on a nine-point scale were euthanized for what BLM described as preexisting conditions: a stallion more than 20 years old with severe tooth loss, a stallion more than 20 years old with a missing eye and a 7-year-old bay mare with a previous pelvis fracture.
— On Aug. 5, a 15-year-old bay stud died “from [a] hemorrhage secondary to lymphatic cancer.”
The Bureau of Land Management intends to remove about 1,650 wild horses and 200 burros. No burros have yet been captured.
In a press release, BLM said that 45-60 day roundup was necessary to “prevent undue or unnecessary degradation of the public lands associated with excess wild horses and burros.”
Fifty of the captured mares are to be treated with the fertility control vaccine Gonacon, then released. Forty-four mares were treated on Aug. 5.
While RTF is a strong supporter of the use of fertility control to phase out BLM’s decades-old practice of capture and removal, we remain guarded about the use of the longer-lasting fertility control vaccine GonaCon. Because it interrupts the hormone cascade, GonaCon may cause other behavioral changes that would affect herd dynamics. As such, RTF would like to see more studies to ensure that GonaCon meets the parameters of ethical and thoughtful wildlife fertility control. That is the case with PZP, a non-hormonal vaccine with more than three decades of research behind it that RTF has used at its sanctuary with a 91-98% efficacy rate.
In March, BLM estimated the equine population on the Shawave Herd Management Area stood at 1,722 wild horses and 160 burros, not including this year’s foals. The agency does not manage the Shawave Mountains Herd Management Area for burros, but the agency estimates about 200 are living in and around the HMA.
The BLM-set Appropriate Management Level for the 177,204-acre Herd Management Acres is 82-136 wild horses, as low as one horse for every 2,161 acres, and zero burros.
Shawave Mountains is part of the 1.2 million-acre Blue Wing Complex, the area covered by the Environmental Assessment for the roundup.
The Blue Wing Complex is made up of 981,062 acres of public land and 205,725 acres of private land. Its total Appropriate Management Level is 333 to 553 wild horses and 55 to 90 burros.
By comparison, a total of 13 livestock operators are authorized to graze livestock in these allotments annually. Their total permitted use is 47,872 Animal Unit Months (one AUM equals enough for one cow for one more) or about 3,989 head of cattle. Actual use varied from 24,408 to 28,678 AUM from 2013-2016, the years immediately preceding publication of Environmental Assessment.
About 466 wild horses and zero wild burros will remain in the Shawave Mountains Herd Management when the roundup is complete, the agency estimates.
Captured wild horses are to be transported to the Indian Lakes Off-Range Corral, located outside of Fallon, Nevada, with burros shipped to the Axtell Contract Off Range Corrals, located in Axtell, Utah, to be prepared for adoption or sale.
Viewing the roundup
Members of the public wishing to view to roundup must call the gather hotline nightly at (775) 861-6700 to receive meeting locations and time. They are asked to bring hand sanitizer and not attend if ill or have been exposed within the previous 14 days to someone with COVID-19. Use of facemasks and social distancing are required.